Posts tagged ‘Catholicism’

I Hope Because I Must

Spc. Jlynn Johnson (right), U.S. Army Health C...

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God works in mysterious ways we cannot hope to understand, but it behooves us to remember that with God, nothing is impossible. Miracles are not just a thing of Biblical history. Neither are they simply beating tough odds. But such faith is borne out in our choice to hope. And when we choose to Have an Optimistic Plan for Everything (and for all Eternity), we naturally put forth the effort to cooperate as fully with God’s will as much as we are able. I recently visited my father who lives a state away from me. He told me he and his wife and my step-sister still pray God will heal me through the grace outpoured by Jesus the Christ. I always remind him that while it may not make sense to him or sometimes even me, I believe I bear the cross of my health problems for a reason and that God’s will may not be for me to be healed. My father nods his head , but I believe remains unconvinced. My father was a victim in an automobile accident. He wasn’t driving. He was hit by a truck while walking across a street. He’d just left work and as he took his last step onto the curb to reach the parking lot across the street, an overeager driver lurched forward into my Dad as the light turned green. Some of his injuries were termed the worst ever seen by the doctors where he was air-lifted. His pelvis was broke in half and folded into a 90 degree angle. He was told there was no chance he would walk again. However, that didn’t deter his determination. When the physical therapist would leave his room, he’d work a little harder, a little longer. He walks, albeit with a cane and pain, but he walks. He was shrunk 2-3” and he stoops over, but my dad, once 6’9” still towers over me physically and in my mind. My father chose to have hope. I admit that for many years I took his healing for granted, only marveling a bit at the story but not truly absorbing the magnificence of God’s glory at work.

painting by mollyjayne40, blog administrator, based on an image suggested by Zemanta on WordPress


I can relate many more examples of modern miracles, all personally known to me –some just as dramatic, some less, some more. For example, my cousin was diagnosed with sleep apnea and told how he’d have to wear a mask hooked up to a breathing machine the rest of his life. My cousin lost a significant amount of weight, got into better physical condition, learned better breathing techniques, and made adjustments to his environment. He no longer requires a machine and is on several less medications. My cousin said he never would have made the improvements he did if he hadn’t 1) accepted and used the machine which finally allowed him the physically and mentally restorative sleep  and the regulated schedule he needed to have the energy and organization to work towards goals and 2) chosen to have hope and to work steadily toward progress in his health in general with a chance at a pay-off some termed impossible. Another example and one which typifies the modern world’s response is that which occurred for a pastor at a church I formerly attended before moving. In brief, he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was being treated by a team of doctors at one of the most highly rated specialty cancer treatment centers in the world. Unfortunately, the cancer did not seem to be abating in response to any of the treatment. With plans for a visit cross-country, the pastor’s colleague and friend suggested he visit one of the other top cancer treatment centers which happened to be close to his destination. During his flight, while praying a preemptive thanksgiving for the “healing only the Good Lord can provide”, he noticed he was suddenly able to breathe better. Two days later, test results in hand and feeling confident that he had been healed, he arrived and began a new battery of tests. When the doctors at last descended upon him, they announced that he had no trace of cancer and had “obviously [been] misdiagnosed”. However they had no explanation for what may have caused all of the false positive readings on his test results as they had found no trace of any illness or injury in the chest, noting that his lungs and heart were easily that of someone 20 years his junior. I could continue with such stories, but I have one special one to tell.
full-body Positron Emissions Tomography
The following is the story that inspired this post. It is one that gave me chills when I first heard it and one that still does every time I retell it. In my younger years I spent several months discerning with a Catholic community of Benedictine Sisters. Ultimately, I did not become a part of the community but they’ve long held a special place in my heart. During my discernment period I worked with two vocation directors. On a visit last autumn I learned one of them had been diagnosed and was struggling with little response to intervention for an aggressive form of cancer with a low survival rate. I was saddened to see here subsisting on a liquid diet, as she could not keep down any solid food. Then, on another visit in February, I learned that this sweet woman of the “invisible habit” (that air of peace and example of righteous conduct that is far more visible and indicative of perpetual vows than any piece of cloth) had come to an agreement with her doctors to end treatment. For as many cancer patients will tell you, it is only the possibility of a cure that helps them to endure the suffering most cancer treatment produces. No cure could reasonably be expected for Sister F. And as my dear friend and the other once-vocation director said, “The doctors and she have done all they can. At this point all we can do is pray God blesses her with a miraculous healing if it is God’s will. We know it is possible and I know you will pray with us.” I did of course. All we could do was choose to have hope. This past month, on another visit, I noticed Sister F’s cheeks seemed more ruddy and her step seemed lighter. I asked Sister C, “So how is Sister F doing?” SIster C’s face brightened as she related the latest update. At a recent doctor’s visit, a PET scan plus four additional tests revealed not only that the cancer had not spread but that no trace of it remained. They had all been accused of colluding with God to put the doctors out of business. I cannot help but be encouraged and inspired, not only by the outcome of this story, but by the gracefulness with which this nun accepted God’s will, whatever it might be, moving as easily with serenity towards death as towards her life now continued. So, as Arthur Woolson says in recounting his personal story as the father of child diagnosed with Schizophrenia, “I hope because I must. For without faith, the dull sounds of existence would be too hollow to bear” (Goodbye, My Son – Copyright 1962)

Articles of Interest for Scriptural Study

The Bible

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The meaning of what is written in The Holy Bible, and even what constitutes The Holy Bible, has long been a topic of considerable discussion and debate.  Below is an incomplete list of noteworthy online articles and blog posts regarding the interpretation and study of Holy Scripture.  I do not imply by the listing of each that I agree with or even have read every single word.  This list is provided as a resource, not an endorsement. At a later date, I may add other resources, as well.  I will update this post periodically and invite submissions, via “comment”, for consideration.  If you feel a resource should not be listed, please share your opinion and reasoning.

Go Now: The 1st Disciples & Our Call to Proclaim

Calling of Andrew and Peter

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The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 1 includes the recounting of the story of Peter, Andrew, James and John’s call to discipleship. These guys were wealthy fishermen. This is after Jesus has been baptized by John, of course. Don’t you imagine word about what happened had spread? This is also after Jesus had been tempted by the devil and prevailed. Still, though, would you just drop everything to follow a stranger? Jesus must have oozed of conviction and truth! We know the Good News, the Truth, and have all the more reason to be confident in Jesus the Christ. It is rooted in that confidence, that we must go now to proclaim.

I went on to read today from Paul’s really long letter to the Romans, Chapter 10.  Paul reminds us that Christ is the end of the law. Christ is the new covenant. Looking to be rewarded for righteousness that reflects only our ability to follow rules will be met with failure. Paul tells the Romans, “Hey, if you are willing to risk identifying yourself as a believer, if you really believe deep down, then whatever harm or hardship comes to you here on earth will be worth your great reward in heaven.” This doesn’t mean we say it, then do nothing. Paul continues, saying, “Christ is the good news people don’t even know to look for. If people don’t hear the truth, how can they believe it? Get out there and tell them.”

Questions for Contemplation
1) With whom have you shared the Good News?
2) What made you first really believe?
3) Where are you in your journey of faith?
4) When have you had opportunity to share the Good News and haven’t?
5) Why is it difficult for you personally to share the Good News?
6) How have you seen people share their faith and the Good News without being “preachy”?

Prayer of Devotion
Lord, Answer to Our Every Prayer,
You come to us with the gift of Your mercy and love
and ask only that we share.
Strengthen our faith that we hold no self-condemnation or anxiety.
Let our rituals be tools rather than distractions.
Embolden us with courage and Christ-like charisma to proclaim Your Truth.
Believing in the power of Your name, we ask You Jesus the Christ,
to grant these requests.
As it is Your will, so let it be.

The Way, One Truth, God’s Love

Doorway, Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Damasc...

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[Note: This is a first draft, but I wanted to go ahead and publish it. Throughout this post, you will see “(link)” which is a note to myself to add a link or citation. I will eventually return to replace these, but if you have a question about a particular one, please leave a comment and I will try to respond more promptly.]

My mind is a whirlwind of thought and emotion. Like so many, I really do desire to do God’s will, but struggle to know what it actually is. I was listening to a book on CD by Sheila Walsh (link) during a recent road trip. She was explaining how the apostle Paul, then Saul, really thought he was devout and doing the right thing, persecuting the Christians, by keeping the Jewish faith pure. The Risen Christ blinded him, a physical manifestation of his spiritual nature, then showed him The Light. As I have been reflecting on the readings this Advent Season and thinking about the Second Coming, I’ve felt the responsibility to share the Word weigh heavily upon me, but I’m confused and filled with trepidation.

I want to boldly share the Good News. At the same time, I’ve been moved with empathy by stories of homeless persons who feel unwelcome at shelters that require them to participate in faith practices that differ from their beliefs. I am likewise disturbed by the declaration of some Baptists that Catholicism is a cult. The anti-Muslim sentiment of so many self-proclaimed Christians is troubling as well. I don’t want to be unloving in declaring God’s love for all.

I remember Pope Jonh Paul II, the Roman Catholic Pope, coming under verbal fire for declaring that the grace of Jesus the Christ is available to those who have not heard the Good News. Recently I read a blog (link) that insists that when Jesus Christ says “No one comes to the Father except through me, (link)” He meant NO ONE who doesn’t know and believe in the Passion of Christ will be admitted into heaven, so we must take the Good News to as many people as possible and accept that most of humanity will perish. Who is right? Both seemed convincing. I wonder, are we each just a story or are we the essence of our actions?

The song line, “They will know we are Christians by our love” (link) is sometimes spoofed by changing “love” to “T-shirts.” While the emphasis is to point out that a changed heart must be reflected in our actions, I’ve wondered if the original song line doesn’t reflect the Truth in its entirety. Does living The Way insist knowledge of its source or name or professor or rather adherence to its principles? Jesus the Christ said, “I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life. (link)” The Son of God calls us into communion with God by showing us the perfect example in human form of obedience to God. I notice that The Lord never says “Be me.” Surely, you realize that would be in conflict with The Creator’s admonition of Adam and Eve for eating from the Tree of Knowledge (link). This leaves me with more questions.

Am I mistaken to now believe that being a Christian means living the example of Christ? The deepest question then is whether someone can know how to without knowing and understanding the totality of His life and Passion. I’ve come to a place of finding it easy to have empathy for and forgive others because I recognize the immenseness of my ignorance. How well can I know the heart of any person and how well can I know the depth of their understanding or even their potential to understand and apply the teachings of Jesus the Christ? How well do I know myself in these matters? This leads me to wonder, how well equipped am I to teach others, what is my responsibility to teach, what should I be teaching, and how should I teach it?

In all faiths of the world, there are some common truths. Surely this is no accident. Coincidence is often evidence of God’s presence in my mind. How can we acknowledge a God of unfathomable wisdom and yet seek to limit that same God’s power to present The Way to people in the cultural context that would make sense to their/our tiny minds? I propose it would serve us all best in preserving the good of humanity to respect those common truths. Further who am I or you but a peer to all others of which God is the Creator? Who am I to judge the work of the Master? The Bible instructs us only to judge those of our believing community and even there to do so through a construct of law and justice (link). Further we should bear in mind that no matter how inspired the Word, God did not write it by His own hand and it has been translated in multiple ways. Therefore we should look to the traditions of the Church for guidance as well.

In all matters of serious moral judgment, the original Church taught (to summarize from the Catechism of The Roman Catholic Church, link) that we should seek wise counsel (from one or more persons well-versed in Biblical languages and culture, literary interpretation, Scriptural study, etc) and examine an issue from all sides and in every intellectual field (historical, philosophical, social, psychological, theological, scientific,etc). God gave us brains and the collective gifts of humanity to USE. Then we should pray long and thoroughly (most especially that God’s will be done and with an open ear to the echoed answer of the Spirit from at least 2 entirely different sources lest we be deceived in our haste). Finally, we are obligated to act in accord with OUR conscience even if our actions would be in conflict with “official teachings” because ultimately we are responsible for our own salvation (link). On the topic of evangelizing, this has been an ongoing process for me.

I’d like to share some seemingly disconnected but relevant truths revealed to me in prayer, study, and conversation with counsel on the topic at hand. Love and hate cannot coexist. Temptation does not foreshadow sin; it merely warns of it’s potential presence. A Jewish philosopher (link) taught the Golden Rule this way, “Do NOT do onto others what you do NOT want done onto you.” In matters of morality, majority does not rule. I cannot consciously hate in word or deed because it conflicts with the Truth of Love.

So, because Christianity makes sense to me and It’s teachings are what my conscience most often leads me to profess and follow, I am bound by my conscience to spread the Good News for my own salvation. But I am committed to letting my “speech” begin with acts of love and then continue, as opportunity allows, by relating the example of Jesus the Christ. I believe that the Truth will make itself known to whomever answers the door. Somebody’s knocking. Will you let Him in?

The Word Shall Heal

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the Eucharist, a ...

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One of my most favorite moments in the Catholic Mass is when as a congregation, everyone speaks together during the Eucharistic celebration, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the Word and I shall be healed.” This is derived from today’s Gospel reading. The centurion, a man of compassion and great faith, humbles himself to the Lord to ask for healing for his suffering servant who lies at home paralyzed.

Lord, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. (Matt 8:8 NAB)

The adaptation in the Mass embodies a great deal of my core faith. Without humility, I cannot surrender to God‘s will. If I cannot surrender, I cannot be in full union with God. Out of union with God, I am discontent, without joy. Without joy, I cannot fully love. God created me to love and be loved. Without humility I cannot be the person God created me to be.

I am to receive the Lord. I am to be open. I am to recognize God as a gift. I am to recognize that God comes to me, is with me. We’ve never really been apart except in our minds. I am to welcome God into my heart as an honored guest.

I’ve found so many Protestants to be pleasantly enlightened by my explanation of the Eucharistic Celebration in the Catholic Church. They are quite happy to discover we don’t believe in cannibalism. They are then intrigued that our belief in the real presence of Christ is rooted in believing that the Eucharistic Celebration reunites us with Christ in time and place. While the Spirit is with me always, I’m filled with such gratitude to be joined with Christ each time I participate in the wondrous experience of Holy Communion. I feel even more personally connected to God which sets the foundation for what is said next.

When we say, “only say the word,” I think of three things. First, God is so powerful that only God’s voice, not God’s physical presence, is necessary to animate God’s will. Yet, the Creator gave us Christ to be a physical presence to humanity. Second, I imagine “word” to be capitalized. The Creator spoke us all, including Jesus the Christ, into being. Third, the Word who existed since the world began is the source of our healing. The moment concludes with the assurance that our hope is in the Lord and we shall be healed. Isaiah reminds us that the glory of the Lord is made manifest through God’s merciful cleansing of our souls, bringing light to the darkness. If I allow it, welcome it, welcome Christ into my heart, I am healed today in so many ways.

To Contemplate
For whom do you struggle to have empathy and compassion?
What is your reason to receive communion…to comply with tradition, to be comforted, to be more fully united with Christ the Lord in the mission of bringing peace and salvation to the world?
Where do you see opportunities to bring God’s message and ministry of healing to those around you?
When will you know that you are fully healed?
Why is it so difficult for you as an individual to feel a personal connection with God?
How can you better prepare yourself for the coming of Christ in glory?

To Devote Ourselves, We Pray
Lord you have washed away our sins, healed us and made us stronger. We are in awe of your compassion and power. Gently humble our hearts to recognize our unworthiness, empower us with empathy and fill us with compassion. As we have been healed and are filled with Your presence, let us likewise share the same with all those about us, bringing peace to one moment, one person at a time until you come again to heal in full all who will receive you. Amen

People Get Ready

Michelangelo's The Last Judgement, Vatican City

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The song below nicely sums up some readings I’d like to reflect on today…

People Get Ready, Jesus Is Coming
by Crystal Lewis

Lord I’m ready. Now I’m waiting for your triumphant return. You’re coming soon. This world has nothing for me. I find my peace and joy solely in you. Only in you, I want the world to see that you’re alive and living well in me. Let me be a part of the harvest for the days are few. He’s coming soon. Those who do not know, they will hear, “Depart, I knew you not.” For my friends, you see, there will be a day when we’ll be counted, so know him well.

So people, get ready. Jesus is coming. Soon we’ll be going home.
People get ready. Jesus is coming to take from the world his own.

There will be a day when we will be divided right and left for those who know him and those that do not know. Those who know him well, will meet with him in the air, Hallelujah, God is with us…

Date Lectionary Readings [1st, RP, ( 2nd), A*, G]
S 11/28 1^ Is 2:1-5, Ps 122:1-9, (Rom 13:11-14), Ps 85:8, Ma 24:37-44

Summation of the Readings for 11/28/10
The 1st Reading from Isaiah tells us about his vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem. The previous passage describes Zion as the Messianic Capital and the passage after focuses on judgment against idols. The 2nd Reading from Romans concerns the duty of a Christian to obey authority and to recognize that love fulfills the law. The passage before describes a Christian’s duty to live and die for Christ, while the one following tells Christians it is our duty to exercise patience and self-denial. The Gospel Reading reminds us that we do not know when Jesus will return. Of course, a specific relevant message for us today beyond these basic topics is contained within the readings.

Reflection
The 1st Reading also tells us that at the Second Coming, people will come to be instructed in the Way of the Lord, some people will be taken from the world, the Lord will judge and impose punishments, and nations then will be at peace. Isaiah concludes by telling the people to “come walk in the Way of the Lord.” Why? If people are wanting to be instructed in the Way, we must realize that our actions speak louder than words. If someone else is looking to me for the Way to salvation, I don’t want to let them or God down.

In the Roman’s passage, we are told to “wake up” because “salvation is nearer than when you first believed.” Further, we are reminded to “conduct ourselves as if all can see.” Whose watching? Anyone who is looking to learn the Way of the Lord might see what we do. Even when all might not see, some see. Again, shouldn’t we take the responsibility seriously if someone’s salvation might depend on us? Further, even if no person sees, God sees. If we claim to be people of the Light, we better be walking in the Light, in the Way. When the Lord comes again, He will leave those walking in the dark, those focused on desires of the flesh, to dwell in darkness. We have a choice now. We will not then. Choose the Light and now, before it’s too late.

The Gospel of Matthew reading tells us we don’t know when the Lord will return anymore than people knew when the Great Flood was coming. No doubt, we realize what a disaster missing the boat then was. I don’t want to miss the boat. The author goes on to say, hey, stay awake as if a thief might be coming. We might be a bit resistant to thinking of the Lord as a thief, but the simile sure catches our attention. We certainly should care more about losing our opportunity to live eternally in the Light than losing anything of this world. Further, if half will be taken presumably to the Heavenly Kingdom and 1/2 will be left behind as it says in the reading, it makes sense in context that those who are ready – those who are walking in the Way of the Lord – will be the ones taken up. If Satan is going to reign, I don’t want to be here. Do you?

To Contemplate
How do your personal thoughts of sin affect you and those around you?
Why might the Lord judge you as “not ready”?
When do you examine your conscience?
Where do you imagine the Lord will first make His return known?
What will you do to stay awake and ready yourself?
Who brings out the best in you?

Prayer of Devotion
Lord of Heaven and Earth, King of Kings,
each person formed in God’s image has the potential to be as beautiful as You;
thank you for showing us how by your example.
As I move forward from this moment, help me to put forth the effort to be more mindful of my thoughts and actions, more willing to make amends and more able to recognize how best to proceed in the Way, yielding to God’s will.
“Lord make me an instrument of Your Peace.”
Let it be, O Gracious Lord.

If you have enjoyed this, my PEOPLE GET READY post, (which alludes to the image of the Second Coming of Jesus the Christ as a thief in the night for whom we should be awake and awaiting) or if you like poetry, the following link may be of interest…
On One Thief I Wait (on Poemhunter.com)

A Word About the Word: Advent

Detail - Glory of the New Born Christ in prese...

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A deeper understanding of anything can begin with a thorough definition.  The word advent has its origins in the Latin adventus, meaning “coming”. Dictionaries generally agree upon the modern definition as “the coming, approach or arrival into place, view or being – especially of an extremely important event, change, person, or state”.  Any etymology dictionary will take that a step further to let you know that adventus is the past participle stem of the Latin advenire “arrive, come to,” from ad- “to” + venire “to come”.

I think it is valuable to consider the fullness of this definition. What is the significance of the words “coming, approach or arrival,” of “place, view or being,” of “event, change, person, or state”?  Given its roots, shouldn’t we consider the word advent to at least equally be defined as the “coming to”?  Why is that addition meaningful?  Just the definition of advent gives us ample guidance for devotion to a deeper relationship with the God of our understanding, but especially Jesus the Christ of the Judeo-Christian heritage, as we enter upon and traverse the Advent Season of the Liturgical Calendar.

How often have you struggled with feeling alone, disconnected, apart from?  If not from people, what about in your relationship with a Higher Power, something or someone more powerful and wise than you or humanity as a whole?  Many times, even when we are committed to a faithful existence and exercise our spiritual muscles in religious practices, prayers, or acts of piety, we “know” God loves us, but still feel a sense of distance.  The Christian Bible proclaims , “whenever two or more of you are gathered in My name, I am there.”  Perhaps you lament, “So, what about the rest of the time?”

Our Creator sent Jesus the Christ to us. When Our Lord left this world to dwell at Our Holy Parent’s right hand, He sent the Holy Spirit, the fullness of their love, to be with us. Our Salvation comes to us. Our Comforter comes to us. We don’t have to go looking or begging. Already, because “our bodies are a temple for the Lord”, we are never alone. We take God into all that we do. We make God a part of every choice, even if we do so unconsciously. We can neither hide from God nor is God hidden from us. This implies both a privilege and a responsibility.

The definition doesn’t end there. Advent means also “arrival (to arrive)” from the Latin ad ripam “to the shore,” from ad “to” + ripa “shore”, referring originally to touching ashore after a long voyage. Indeed, we would want to welcome such a weary traveler with pleasantries and all they need. As advent means “approach”, it means “the coming nearer to” from the Latin appropiare “go nearer to,” from the Latin ad- “to” + propiare “come nearer” (the comparative of prope “near”). All these definitions imply concerted and thoughtful effort on the part of the person coming. We can be grateful we are on the receiving end.

While the Spirit dwell within us, Christ the Lord will return to this world to “judge the living and the dead.” An approach is a process and something we can “see” developing. We can prepare. The word arrival defined as “the coming to a position or state of mind” reminds us that as Christ Jesus comes to contemplate and render judgment upon our lives, we might do well to begin such preparation in our minds. Jesus Or Lord will be a new vision, a triumphant king, ready to rule the new kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

If this is to be our Advent, we must watch with new eyes, be open to transformation, and ready to leave the false comforts of our homes. We must recognize and celebrate that, as “approach” figuratively suggests “a means of handling a problem, etc.,” Jesus the Christ is Our Means, Our Answer.  We must welcome the One who will melt our icy hearts and minds to flow with Him, the Living Water.  Our great sin is in forgetting or rejecting that we are bound eternally to God, not being ever mindful and conscious of our connection.  Christ Jesus has shown us The Way to reconnect, to see again the Truth of our relationship with Our Creator.

The Way is to love as Jesus loved. For in whatever manner we are unloving of others, we are unloving of Jesus the Christ, of Our Creator, Our Lord God, and ultimately of ourselves – we who are “made in the image of God.”  How can we be complete and content if we are at war with ourselves?  It is time for us to “come to,” to wake up to the reality that the only aloneness we must face is that which we create for ourselves by not being ready to greet God face-to-face.

For Contemplation to “Come To” (recover consciousness)
About what have I been in denial?
How have I tried to hide from God?
Why do I resist being in full union with God?
In whose face do I struggle to see Christ?
Where in darkness have I unwittingly taken the Holy Spirit with me?
When will I be ready for Christ’s return?

For Devotion
This simple prayer I offer Lord…
It matters not how small I am; You are My All and I am Yours.
Let my mind and heart be ever open to Your presence
and my hands never closed to Your bidding.
Ever more, let me ask “What is the next right thing?”
Ever more let me hear and see Your answer in the echoes,
the same message from two unique sources,
that I might live the simplicity of Your Love that indwells me
until You, Christ the Lord, come in glory to rule forever more.
Lord, My God, let it be.

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